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The Last Word

Ellis Rubinstein
Ellis Rubinstein

What we think of as our race of modern humans emerged from Africa about 200,000 years ago and by around 40,000 years ago they were creating naturalistic depictions of animals using the contours of cave walls for perhaps the earliest version of virtual reality.

So what are the Academy's 200 years of history but an eye blink in human history?

And yet for Americans a bicentennial is still rare. And considering how unusual it was that a local academy of sciences attracted not merely Presidents Jefferson and Monroe and not merely Bell and Edison, Pupin and Marconi and essentially all the prominent American scientists and engineers of the 19th century...but also Lord Kelvin, James Joule, Alexander von Humboldt, Louis Pasteur, the great Charles Darwin and scores more of the greatest minds of Europe before we even get to the 20th century and the birth of the Nobel Prizes...and considering that over 100 of the Laureates ever named have been members of our Academy maybe we can be allowed a point of pride in the vast community of scientific organizations.

And yet the names were never enough; it was always what the Academy enabled the visionaries to do together that determined our best and worst eras. Creating the first ever ecological survey—it happened to be of Puerto Rico. Hosting the first ever conference on antibiotics, on asbestos hazards, on AIDS, on SARS. Catalyzing perhaps the first ever collective action initiative to clean up a technologically induced disaster: the Hudson River. Inspiring a global alliance to address the 2 billion and growing number of people suffering from under- and over-nutrition. Bringing policy makers from the American, Canadian, European, Japanese and Australian governments together with the leaders of the pharmaceutical companies reeling from failures to develop Alzheimer's drugs and the most brilliant academic innovators in a summit to hammer out new, more affordable, more efficient and more powerful pathways to attack what is becoming one of the worst scourges of an aging planet.

And now to partner with the United Nations Secretary General to engage the private sector—industry and academia working together—in developing proof-of-concept, scalable initiatives to address the Sustainable Development Goals ambitiously adopted by 193 nations in September 2015: a roadmap to save the planet.

It has been my honor and greatest privilege to lead the Academy for the past 14 years and witness the expansion of our programs and global network. But all of this comes about because of the extraordinary willingness of individual members and our incredibly expanding family of institutional partners—over 1000!—who work with us to accomplish the unimaginable. And the network is only getting even more extraordinary thanks to our new Global STEM Alliance which is identifying the world's most gifted and committed children—indeed, inspiring gifted children in resource poor settings who would be lost to the future of mankind without the mentors and role models we provide them—so that we can contemplate a million children prepared to be the innovators of tomorrow…all growing up to be Members of our Academy mentoring the generation behind them.

So if you have already been fully engaged in one or more of these efforts, on behalf of our staff and Board of Governors, I thank you and invite you to join us in this remarkable Bicentennial Year that celebrates not merely our past collective actions but the even more impactful century to come...our third century.

And if you have not been as fully engaged as you might and find this overview inspiring, please email me so we can bring you into the powerful family of doers making an enormous difference.

Dear friends, all of this would not be possible if it were not for three fundamental elements that contribute to the Academy's success. First is our dedicated team of professionals who work together to develop and manage our programs and I'd like to take a moment to recognize their collective intellect and hard work. Second are our 20,000 loyal Members, who support the Academy's mission not only through their Membership and research contributions, but also who selflessly volunteer countless hours of their precious time to mentor, educate and inspire the next generation of STEM innovators. And finally, I tip my hat to the 1000 visionary organizations and philanthropic partners who, through their belief in the value of our mission, provide crucial financial support for the Academy and our programs.

As we move into the Academy's third century, we look forward to a million Members, a hundred thousand institutional partners and a planet becoming sustainable thanks to our collective commitment.

Ellis Rubinstein

President & CEO